The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, delivered an unusually candid speech on Thursday about the difficult relationship between the police and African-Americans, saying that officers who work in neighborhoods where blacks commit crimes at a high rate develop a cynicism that shades their attitudes about race.
Citing the song â€œEveryoneâ€™s a Little Bit Racistâ€ from the Broadway show â€œAvenue Q,â€ he said police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently. In an address to students at Georgetown University, Mr. Comey said that some officers scrutinize African-Americans more closely using a mental shortcut that â€œbecomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lightsâ€ because black men are arrested at much higher rates than white men.
In speaking about racial issues at such length, Mr. Comey used his office in a way that none of his predecessors had. His remarks also went beyond what President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. have said since an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August.
Mr. Comey said that his speech, which was well received by law enforcement officials, was motivated by his belief that the country had not â€œhad a healthy dialogueâ€ since the protests began in Ferguson and that he did not â€œwant to see those important issues drift away.â€
Previous F.B.I. directors had limited their public comments about race to civil rights investigations, like murders committed by the Ku Klux Klan and the bureauâ€™s wiretapping of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Â But Mr. Comey tried to dissect the issue layer by layer.
He started by acknowledging that law enforcement had a troubled legacy when it came to race.
â€œAll of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty,â€ he said. â€œAt many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.â€
Mr. Comey said there was significant research showing that all people have unconscious racial biases. Law enforcement officers, he said, need â€œto design systems and processes to overcome that very human part of us all.â€
The FBI in Seattle created a fake news story on a bogus Seattle Times web page to plant software in the computer of a suspect in a series of bomb threats to Laceyâ€™s Timberline High School in 2007, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco.
The deception was publicized Monday when Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., revealed it on Twitter.
In an interview, Soghoian called the incident â€œoutrageousâ€ and said the practice could result in â€œsignificant collateral damage to the public trustâ€ if law enforcement begins co-opting the media for its purposes.
The EFF documents reveal that the FBI dummied up a story with an Associated Press byline about the Thurston County bomb threats with an email link â€œin the style of The Seattle Times,â€ including details about subscriber and advertiser information.
The link was sent to the suspectâ€™s MySpace account. When the suspect clicked on the link, the hidden FBI software sent his location and Internet Protocol information to the agents. A juvenile suspect was identified and arrested June 14.
The revelation brought a sharp response from the newspaper.
â€œWe are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the U.S. Attorneyâ€™s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,â€ said Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best.
â€œNot only does that cross a line, it erases it,â€ she said.
â€œOur reputation and our ability to do our job as a government watchdog are based on trust. Nothing is more fundamental to that trust than our independence â€” from law enforcement, from government, from corporations and from all other special interests,â€ Best said. â€œThe FBIâ€™s actions, taken without our knowledge, traded on our reputation and put it at peril.â€
An AP spokesman also criticized the tactic.
â€œWe are extremely concerned and find it unacceptable that the FBI misappropriated the name of The Associated Press and published a false story attributed to AP,â€ Paul Colford, director of AP media relations. â€œThis ploy violated APâ€™s name and undermined APâ€™s credibility.â€
Before we jump all over the FBI, it happens more than you think and has similar things happened recently in Saskatoon with false news stories planted in the media. Â That and the Seattle Times got itâ€™s outrage wrong. Â You donâ€™t need spyware to get an I.P. address.
If you have some time, read the debacle that was Ruby Ridge and the Randy Weaver stand off. To put it in the words of Deputy FBI Director Danny Coulson
Something to Consider
1. Charge against Weaver is Bull Shit.
2. No one saw Weaver do any shooting.
3. Vicki has no charges against her.
4. Weaver’s defense. He ran down the hill to see what dog was
barking at. Some guys in camys shot his dog.
Started shooting at him. Killed his son. Harris did the
shooting [of Degan]. He [Weaver] is in pretty strong legal position."
Itâ€™s incredibly messed up. Incompetence at all levels of law enforcement levels culminated in several people dying and being wounded. The weirdest part is that after all was said and done, Randy Weaver was acquitted of all the charges, just as Danny Coulson said. It would be interesting to contrast a similar situation in Canada which didnâ€™t spiral all out of control with the Ruby Ridge siege and see what the differences were.